ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A forensic psychologist said Ellen Snyder suffered from “battered woman’s syndrome,” and former work colleagues said they saw her with a black eye and in a loud argument with her husband before he disappeared.
None of the testimony dissuaded a judge Tuesday from imposing the maximum 11-year sentence for Snyder, who admitted killing her husband Michael Snyder in 2002.
Second Judicial District Judge Kenneth Martinez noted Ellen Snyder had wrapped her husband’s body in garbage bags and thrown trash in the informal grave before the hole was covered up with a concrete pad adjacent to her Northeast Heights home.
Snyder shot her husband during an argument and then buried him after hiring a backhoe and bobcat to dig and then fill a hole. She enlisted help from her then-teenage son, first to keep him from calling 911 after the shooting and then to dispose of the body.
Ellen Snyder fired eight shots from a semiautomatic – some in her husband’s back but others in the floor and the stereo. Her attorney said if she’d let the call go through, investigators would have been able to determine that she shot in self-defense. Eight years later, it wasn’t so easy.
Snyder, 52, pleaded guilty in May to voluntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement, tax fraud and tampering with evidence. Snyder’s attorney Penni Adrian argued for a five-year sentence, saying her client was the victim of an abusive relationship and feared for her own life during the fatal argument.
Deputy District Attorney David Waymire sketched a criminal history that would have included charging Snyder with more crimes had the statute of limitations not run out between the time Michael Snyder was killed in January 2002 and when the body was discovered in 2010.
Snyder was arrested Feb. 5, 2010, on an open count of murder after a tipster told police where they could find Michael Snyder’s body buried in the yard of the home they owned.
Ellen Snyder pleaded guilty in 1988 to 29 counts of forgery and in 2005 to two other forgery charges.
Waymire told the judge that although Snyder claimed abuse by her husband, some physical but mostly psychological, there was no medical evidence of it, and she never sought a divorce until after her husband was dead.
“We’re here today because of what she chose to do on Jan. 11, 2002,” he said. “We have eight years of lies, concealment, financial gain, false tax returns and claimed refunds. But due to the statute of limitations most of this couldn’t even be charged.” He calculated that she could have faced a possible 251 years in prison if the case could have been charged even a year after his death.
Waymire said Snyder had gone so far as to forge her late husband’s signature on an account on which she was legally entitled to sign, just to continue the fiction that Mike Snyder was still alive.
“Eleven years is far from justice, but it’s what we ask the court to impose,” he said.
Family members who expressed anger at the plea when it was entered seemed more accepting, if no less unhappy, about it Tuesday.
Michael’s sister Teri Johnson spoke of her brother as her protector who made brownies when he would baby-sit. She said knowing how he died haunts her nightly.
“For eight years, the defendant toyed with our emotions,” she said. “This murderer has lied throughout her life.”
Another sister, Laura Bowman, called Ellen Snyder “an evil person” and said the family had been “sentenced to a life of aftershocks and unimaginable loss.”
Michael’s mother, Allene Snyder, told the judge: “There is no greater loss than a parent losing a child, especially in such a tragic manner.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal